On the heels of more bad state budget news, Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano says he is not convinced that Democratic leaders even want to pass a budget in this legislative session. The legislature’s nonpartisan budget office broke the troubling fiscal news Thursday. The current year’s budget is some $200 million in the red; next year’s is currently $900 million out of whack; and even the governor’s proposed budget adjustments falls $400 million short. The legislature is constitutionally mandated to pass a balanced budget. Cue the life rafts.
Senate Majority Leader Len Fasano tells The Hanging Shad he doesn’t think there is the political will on the part of the Democrats to fix the systemic problem in an election year. He points to the proposed UConn contract proposal as evidence. “The UConn [deal] gives wages raises of 4.5 percent,” Fasano said. “The Democrats don’t want to admit their system doesn’t work.”
The state’s budget dance of passing a spending plan, watching it fall severely out of balance, then making adjustments to fix it, only to see it fall out of balance again, is the new normal.
The solution? “Democrats have to admit—at least inwardly—that whatever they thought was going to work didn’t. We need structural change. Even the governor says everything has to be on the table. And that includes union contracts.” Fasano said.
Fasano dismisses the contention that a volatile stock market is to blame for the budget shortfalls. “The numbers don’t support it. [The stock market] took a small hit in July but bounced back by September. It was up in December and down in January.” The state’s budget outlook continued to get bleaker every month.
“The state is more reliant on non-stable income streams such as the income tax as it diverts the more stable sales tax revenue to other programs. People are simply leaving the state—the wealthy, the middle class,” Fasano said.
The top Republican in the state said there is no evidence Democratic leaders will do the right thing. “[House Speaker Brendan] Sharkey talks about the state having a ‘revenue problem’ as opposed to a spending problem.”